Joyful living.

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

Life can be tough. Yet whether you are struggling with issues from  the past, difficulties for today or fears about the future, you can still live joyfully.

When you struggle with adversity it can be tempting to look at others and envy them. Some people can appear to glide through life not only untroubled but totally blessed. In reality that is simply a perception. No one gets through life without trials and everyone has their own battles to fight.

I suffered many years of depression because I allowed the abandonment by my mother and abuse of my father to rob me of my self-worth. And with it my joy. How could I enjoy my life when so much had been stolen from me? How could I find peace when my mind was in such turmoil? How could I be happy when I was in such pain?

The answer was in the realisation that joyful living is a choice. One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in my emotional recovery was that I couldn’t change yesterday, I can’t control what happens today and I won’t be able to prevent what tomorrow may bring.

However I can make the choice to accept my past, find serenity in each day and embrace the future. All of which enable me to live with joy.

“If you are not living in Joy, you are out of integrity with your Soul.” ~ Michael Bernard Beckwith

Joyful living is empowering. It can overcome both doubt and fear, both of which used to dominate how I approached every area of my life; home, work and relationships. Having grown up in an environment where intimidation ruled, I lived in trepidation of saying or doing anything that would annoy my father. With so much that could go wrong that I gave up finding out what I liked or enjoyed in life because it was his needs that mattered, not mine.

Then there was the ‘fact’ that I was never good enough. As far as my father was concerned I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough, clever enough, interesting enough. I had no value as in individual which of course was proved to me by my mother’s absence. In my mind she had left because I wasn’t lovable enough for her stay. Little wonder that I grew up finding it hard to find any pleasure in being me.

To live without joy is to live a life void of preference, purpose and passion. Your existence stifles your spirit and suppresses your soul. Yet it is in your spirit that you form your dreams and with the strength of your soul that you pursue them. It is in your spirit that you find love for others and in your soul that find love for yourself.

“There is no real and true Joy if that Joy is not imbued with love. Love cannot exist without Joy.” ~ Saraydarian

Joy goes hand in hand with gratitude and forgiveness. It also stems from acceptance and peace. Most of all though it’s birthed in love. Love isn’t simply an emotion, it requires action for it to be effective. So too, does joy.

Despite the difficulties you may be facing, you have the choice as to how you respond. Even though your circumstances may be in turmoil, you can be hopeful that no situation lasts forever. And when someone you depended on lets you down, you can feel proud that you have the strength to overcome. You can choose to be think positively and by doing so increase your light in the darkest of times.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thcih Nhat Hanh

When you live joyfully, it’s not just you that benefits. When you live with hope your radiance shines on everyone and everything around you. When you find time to share kindness, your generosity is passed on. When you love unconditionally, your love is returned.

There are no grand gestures required. A gentle touch can reassure in a moment of grief. A genuine smile can break down sorrow. A heart-felt hug can reconcile and restore.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  ~Psalm 37:4

For me, the joy in my life comes from knowing that I may not have what I want, but I do have what I need. Self-worth, sobriety and belonging also contribute towards my happiness. And each day is made complete by the love of family and the companionship of friends.

But my greatest joy comes from the assurance of a faith that heals and renews, forgives and blesses. And from the promise that He will give me the desires of my heart.

Now that  is joyful living.

Huge thanks to Lori Portka                 http://loriportka.com/ https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LoriPortka for permission to use her beautiful artwork.

 

Miss you.

miss you“Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today.” ~ The Hurt Healer

As the seasons in our lives change, so do the people. Transient relationships that are meaningful in the moment can disappear into our past without detriment to our selves. As quickly as they transpire, so someone new takes their place. People come. People go.               Life moves on.

 

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”     ~ Aristotle.

Then there are those relationships that you wish could last forever. Everyone has someone who plays an intrinsic part in their life. There is a bond that you never want broken. There is a uniqueness that you never want to share. It’s special. It’s precious. And it’s all yours.

Unthinkable then that one day you may have to live without your kindred soul. Unimaginable that you may have to go through each day without the one that filled your heart. Yet it happens. It doesn’t really matter how, because the outcome is the same. You have lost a part of you. And you will never the same again.

But even though that person is no longer present doesn’t mean they are gone completely. You can’t be with them but you can sense them. You can’t touch them but you can feel them. You can’t talk to them but you can hear them. What a comfort to know that whilst the physical relationship has ended, your deep connection continues in the spiritual.

“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach

Sometimes it takes me by surprise when I start to miss someone whose existence has long passed from my life. The heartache has ceased but still the emergence of the memory of that special one can bring reminders of the agony of my loss.

        “Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today. Maybe it’s because I’m facing a season of change that I wish you could be here to share it with me. I miss you more than anyone can imagine. 

Strange though that missing you reminds me of just how far I have come. In those dark days, the lack of your presence would have fueled a cloud of despair and kept me in a depth of depression. No matter how hard I tried to numb the pain, your absence was an endless void.

           Now I can dwell on your memory and know that it’s because you went away that I found my strength. It’s because you left that I could find out who I really was. And I’m grateful not only for what you were able to do for me, but for what you were not. You have helped me become what I am, but that doesn’t stop me missing what we might have had if only you had been here.”

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:26

Thankfully I have a faith that not only comforts and heals, but gives meaning to my life. You need all of these things when you’re heartbroken. For when there is nothing you can do in the natural, it is the spiritual that must relied upon.

Making that connection didn’t come easily for me, because I blamed God for the loss in my life. It took time to learn how my anger and bitterness was misplaced and that God had been with me through the tears. My pain had been His pain too.

heaven and loveGently and tenderly faith restored my brokenness and replaced the emptiness with love. It healed me of the past, gave me meaning for each day, and the assurance of a hope-filled future. But most of all I have the promise that the one day, I will be reunited with the one I love and no longer will there be the need to say ‘ Miss you.’

Thank you to Kim Sisto-Robinson whose fabulous blog My Inner Chick, written in memory of her beloved sister Kay, inspired me to write this post.

Who do you think you are?

happiness“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Are you happy being ‘you’? Do you have confidence in yourself and your abilities? Or have you become your own worst enemy by believing what others have labelled you?  So that instead of living your life as you the person you were meant to be, you are simply a reflection of someone else. If so, it’s time to find out who you really are.

I’ve always had difficulties with my identity. Being abandoned by my mum as an infant left me growing up with extreme insecurities about being unloved and unwanted. It changed how I perceived myself and the thought that I was worthless was reinforced by growing up with an abusing father. My dad defined me in terms that reflected his misogynistic attitudes,which as a child I accepted as truth. There was no-one else to tell me otherwise.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s wasn’t simply the amount of derogatory traits that were attributed to me that caused the damage, it was the lack of anything positive or encouraging. The result was that for many years I really didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to say or do. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. Because I didn’t know who I was.

All that I knew was that I didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be someone else. The onset of depression in my younger years held me trapped in the view that I was never going to be pretty enough, thin enough, clever enough, confident enough. I was never going to be good enough for anything or anyone.  I lacked so much, yet everyone else seem to have what I desired.

So to numb the pain of the disappointment in being me and to help to manage the idea of being me for the rest of my life, I turned to alcohol. And for a while it worked. It gave me the confidence to be indifferent to my failings and took away my fears for the future.

Unfortunately, self-medicating led to addiction and over time the depression and alcoholism took over my life.Together with my lack of self-love I existed through others and allowed relationships to continue to define me. All to my detriment.

“True happiness is living life authentically.”                                                   ~ The Hurt Healer.

Perhaps you have also allowed past events to define you, or perhaps you used to feel you knew who you were but somehow your sense of self has disappeared over time? You can take on so many roles which meet the needs of others that your true identity is overwhelmed, leaving you mourning the loss of who you used to be,whilst your dreams and hopes have been abandoned.  Whatever your circumstances, maybe it is time to give the real you a chance to shine.

The turning point for me was a complete physical and mental breakdown. I could no longer go on existing as a product of my past. Enough of the fake smiles that covered the heartbreak. Enough of the false mask of confidence that hid the fear. Enough of the pretense. Enough of the uncertainty.  I had had enough of it all.

It was time to reclaim my life and find out who I really was. It was time to listen to my inner voice, nurture the child within and allow my authentic self to emerge. And in doing so I found out that I was everything I thought I wasn’t and a little bit more.

Refusing to enable my past to have power over my present, I was able to allow the real me to emerge. Initially the fears of who I had become revealed my rawness and vulnerability,, but over time my confidence and self-worth grew. No longer was I controlled by others.  No longer did I compare myself to others. After all the years of believing otherwise, I was okay being me.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

fearlessWith faith as my guide, I allowed my mind to explore, my heart to love and my soul to bloom. Faith taught me too that I am valuable and precious. And that even my failures have a purpose. My weaknesses have become my strengths and my imperfections have become my uniqueness.

Something I could never have conceived in those dark days was that I was ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ But to today I think am.

What about you? Who do you think you are?

Who cares?

catherine jacobs 2“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead

The world is so chaotic. Depression, suicide, and addictions are increasing world-wide at a rapid rate. It shows that people are hurting and feel alone with their pain. But why care?

Because even if you feel you can’t change the earth, you may be able to change somebody’s world.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

No matter how small your gesture, it can make a difference to someone. A smile costs nothing but it may just brighten someone’s day. A sympathetic ear can help someone feel that they are not alone with their problem. An offer of help may give someone an extra boost to achieve their dream.

It’s not important how you show you care, as long as you do. For when you do, you initiate a chain of kindness that is passed on to others and it is this collective caring that helps to change the world.

Sometimes though it isn’t the lack of care that is the concern, it is the ability to receive it that is difficult. If you’ve experienced rejection you can be left with a lack of trust that forms a barrier to accepting any level affection.

I went through many years convincing myself that I didn’t want anyone to care for me out of pure fear that I would attach to their love only to have it ripped away from me. And even believing that someone would want to care was improbable. How could anyone care about me when my own mother had physically abandoned me and mentally killed me off in her mind?

Yet I did need someone to care. I needed it desperately. Whilst I was too terrified to take the risk to reach out, it was impossible for anyone to reach in. The combination of depression and alcoholism constructed an emotional barricade that was impenetrable.

“The walls that you build as a safeguard are the same walls that will in turn isolate and imprison.” ~ The Hurt Healer

Unfortunately my mental fortress served only to trap me further in my own cycle of despair by restricting me to living each day based only on the my experiences of rejection and abuse. Worse, it prevented any chance of allowing healing or restoration.

There was only one way that I was going to ever be able to be helped and that was for the walls to come down. Of course this was an inevitability that I hadn’t the courage to face, and so it was my mental breakdown that resulted in the collapse of my barriers. As they came crushing down, my vulnerability was exposed and I waited for the end of my life to come.

But it didn’t. Because someone cared. Professionals stepped in and there were friends who stood by me. They cared for me when I was unable to care for myself. Over time I learnt how to renew my boundaries in a positive way. Life stopped being simply a battle against the bad, and became a home for the good.

“Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.” ~ Psalm 62:8

Most importantly I found a faith that cared unconditionally. I realised that God cared, and that He had done all along. When I was willing to receive the love that had been waiting for me, I was then able to heal.  And as I handed over my past, present and future into the security of His hands, so I found the refuge I had longed for. Today I am safely in His care. 

We all need someone to care for us. But that love needs to be rooted in truth. And it needs to be given freely. If someone is showing you that they care only to want something from you in return, then it isn’t genuine. Steer clear.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  ~ Dalai Lama

catherine jacobsIt bothers me that so many people are hurting and nobody seems to care. Yet I know that the best way to feel cared for is to care for others. Doing something kind for someone makes you feel good too.

So in answer to the question ‘Who cares?’                                                 I do. I care.

All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Catherine Jacobs.

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I love you.

untrue love“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” George Sand

Love is a word that is seen and heard everywhere. It is used freely to describe emotions and feelings. It conjures up romantic notions and lusts. Yet there is so much more to love than just a sentiment which makes you feel good.

Of course it’s wonderful to make people feel wanted and needed through words that are encouraging or compassionate. But when you use the words ‘I love you’, it can take the relationship to a completely different level. Those three little words aren’t just a statement of affection or admiration, they can be the ultimate declaration of attachment and loyalty.

When you tell someone you love them you are investing your heart, mind and soul. ‘I love you’ should never be spoken lightly. In my own life I have found it very difficult at times to express my love or receive it. Because I never wanted to feel so desperate, lonely and unloved as I did when I realised my mother had abandoned me forever.

“The love you seek is seeking you at this moment.”                                                              ~ Deepak Chopra

My thinking was that if I didn’t allow anyone to love me and if in turn, I didn’t love anyone then I couldn’t be hurt again. But I did hurt. And the more I used alcohol to numb the pain, the more I distanced myself from ever being able to love not just others, but myself. And so too will you be distanced  further from what you truly desire if you try to avoid loving or being loved. A loveless life is merely an existence void of real joy or happiness.

So when I reached the point that existing was no longer an option for me, I started on my journey of recovery. If you have ever been on that journey you will know how vulnerable and raw it can be. Not to mention terrifying. But it is worth it. You are worth it.

Through faith I experienced a love that forgave everything I had been, accepted me for who I was, and helped me believe that I could live a life of value and worth. Most importantly it taught me that I needed to love myself because it was only through self-love that I could truly extend that love to others.

“Love one another.” ~ John 13:34

It wasn’t easy but I had to learn to look at myself and say ‘I love you’, before I could declare it to anyone else. Even now I have to admit that I am much more at ease at telling those I care for deeply that I love them than reassuring myself. But the reality is that you can’t give away what you don’t have, and that includes love.

illusionAs well as needing to be loved, we need to love others. For me this means not just speaking of love, but showing it. Gifts, tokens of generosity or sensual actions are all ways to demonstrate love, but just as important are respect, empathy, commitment and authenticity. ‘I love you’ can then have huge impact and meaning.

I am so grateful that today my life is filled with friends and family that I have genuine love for and who reciprocate that love time and time again.

My message to you is as always, ‘I love you.’

Untrue love’ and ‘Illusion‘ images thanks to the fabulous talent of Boryana Gold   http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BoryanaGold

 

Miracles.

denise“Everyday holds the possibility of a miracle.” ~ Elizabeth David. 

What’s your definition of a miracle? An unexpected and unexplained blessing? An extraordinary healing?  A life changing event?

Of course what constitutes a miracle for me, may be something that is quite usual for you and vice versa. And I have to admit that I have previously been pretty sceptical about miracles. Mainly because I associated them with unbelievable instantaneous incidences and also because I had never considered the possibility that anything so wonderful could ever happen to me.

                        “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

For anyone who suffers with low self-esteem or lack of self- worth as a result of trauma or abuse, the ability to anticipate positive results or expect good things is seriously impeded. I know that  years of rejection and abuse had a massive effect on my own perspective on life, causing chronic periods of depression and alcoholism. I never felt  good enough for anyone or anything. I didn’t dream of the future because there was no point. As for the chance of a miracle, no way.

Yet as I started on my journey to recovery I learnt that it was through my weaknesses that I could find my strength. Faith helped me to heal by accepting my past, not by trying to deny it. Everything that I had previously held as a truth about myself was confronted. With time and courage I grew to let go and let God help me discover the real truth.

And that was a person who was so much stronger than she ever thought she was. A woman who could reclaim her life to become the person she was meant to be. And if you’ve been in that dark place or are still struggling, be encouraged. You are stronger than you think.

“Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.” ~ Samuel Smiles

I know the amount of healing and hope I have received through my faith. It  has brought me to a place of freedom and happiness in a way that I could never have dreamt. For many that would be a miracle, me included.

let goBut over the past few months, I have experienced a new level of miracle in my life and as  I am very protective of my family it’s with a little hesitancy that I am revealing this.

Fifteen years ago I met my husband in England and we moved back to his native N.Ireland to the village he was born and raised in. I had recently found my faith in a pentecostal church whilst my husband had grown up a Catholic. Many of you will be aware that a mixed relationship like this is still very taboo in many places in N.Ireland, so I agreed to support my husband in his choice of faith and become part of the Catholic community with the proviso that I could still maintain my own form of worship at home.

When we decided to marry, the priest was reluctant and advised us he could not bless or conduct our marriage. So we went one day to a registry office and became legally married. No wedding day as such, but my husband and I agreed we could do that later on.

As time passed a wedding day didn’t really seem to matter because we were blessed with two gorgeous daughters and anyway the priest was still not going to change his mind and my husband was still a catholic, as were our children.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew19:26

A few months ago though, things began to change. Although I was quite content with where I was at in my life I started to feel distracted. I had an urge to move on to a new level. It’s hard to explain but I knew that something significant was going to occur but I didn’t know what. All I knew was that I had no control over what was going on.

All sorts of serendipitous incidences started to occur with a synchronicity that I could only explain through faith. I became aware that every day brought an unexpected blessing. And whilst I was totally grateful there was always that little doubting voice from the past reminding me that I didn’t really deserve all of this goodness.

So I decided to challenge that voice once and for all. So much of my life had been stolen, so much of my life had been ‘make do’, so much of my life had been willing to accept just enough to get by. Well, no more. I refused to listen to it for one more second.

Then came the miracles! Out of the blue my husband talked of not only a blessing but a wedding vow renewal and for the whole family go to England so that my friends could attend. And then he suggested we have a non-catholic service. Exciting ideas except that practically and financially it was impossible.

Except it wasn’t. Within a few hours we had found the perfect church, the perfect pastor ( a charismatic vicar who happened to originate from a few miles from where we live now), the ideal venue for a small reception, and beautiful accommodation. Amazing friends helped with the arrangements long distance. Wonderful friends locally offered us gifts and money to cover the costs.

Yet still more extraordinary events were going to take place. My own faith was being stirred up and I knew that I needed to return to the fellowship of my  church. But how could I attend without abandoning my husband and children? Take them with you, was the answer. And by a miracle, I did.

My children joined me and embraced the youth ministries. My husband stood by my side and after attending for a few weeks gave his heart to God. They have left their religion to find their faith and our lives have changed forever. It’s not just me moving to a new level, it’s my whole family.

P1060121And the reaction from our community? No insults or rejections. Just acceptance and kindness from every corner. Another miracle.

I walked down the aisle on the arm of my lovely faith-filled husband, in the presence of my cherished daughters and loving friends to have my marriage blessed and renewed. It was precious for so many reasons but all the more fulfilling because of how it happened.

I appreciate that many might not see these events as anything out of the ordinary, but the point is that miracles are everywhere and can happen every day. You just have to recognise them.

The greatest lesson I have learnt over the past few months though is to start expecting more. I need to stop limiting myself and allow God to do what he wants to do in my life, because it’s going to be infinitely more than I can ever have imagined.

Well that’s enough of me for the moment. I would love to hear of the miracles that have taken place in your life. And if you don’t think you have experienced any. Think again. There is no one else on this earth like you. You are a miracle.

Top image thanks to the fabulous Denise Wandt at Naturally by Denisehttp://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/NaturallybyDenise.                                           Bottom image thanks to the talented Sunni Chapman at Mimi and Boo http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/mimiandboo All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Sunni Chapman or Denise Wandt

You’re worth it.

il_570xN.436604577_50qpDo you like yourself? Do you celebrate who you are? Do others appreciate you?

 “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

Very few of us live in isolation and most of us juggle the numerous roles life has assigned us. Parent, colleague, spouse, family member – all come with complicated tasks and expectations from others. Each role demands commitment and loyalty.

But you should never give so much of yourself that you have nothing left for you. Likewise your self-worth should not be defined completely by others. It is so important to be able to identify yourself too. Because it is who you think you are, not who everyone else thinks you are, that will ultimately result in who you will become.

“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.

Anyone who has experienced verbal abuse will know that the scars  can run deep. Whether the person intended to harm you or not, it is possible to grasp the abuse as a truth and use it to wound yourself time and time again. Too often the deceptions of the past are still allowed to shape who you are today and will continue to mould your future. But only if you let them. You do have a choice to reject the lies.

It amazes me that after all my years of recovery and despite my strength of faith, that I can be caught off guard. Some extremely hurtful comments were made to me last week at a point when I was feeling less than strong. Even though I could rationalise that person’s tirade as transference of their own inadequacies, there was a part of me that took it on board.

And as I did I hurtled back to that place of fear, loneliness and low self-esteem. The intense doubts surfaced and the feelings of self-hatred emerged to remind me of how worthless I was.  The intensity of the darkness was overwhelming.

But instead of wallowing in the gloom and succumbing to the negativity as I would have done previously, I was able to stand firm and fight my way back into the light. The light that shines from accepting that I am perfectly imperfect and knowing with confidence, who I am.

It can be a psychological battle sometimes, but when those demons raise their ugly heads at those times of vulnerability, you need to affirm everything that is good about you and your life.   Do that and you will find that you will start to free your authentic self and begin to live the life as the person you were meant to be.

“……I am fearfully and wonderfully made……”Psalm 139:14

As a child the emotional abuse I experienced laid the foundation of my depression and alcoholism in adulthood. Healing could only take place once I took the inner child by the hand and reassured her that I could reject what had gone before and claim the truth.

It was through faith that I found the truth. It was through faith that I could heal. And through healing I could love myself. After years I thinking I was worthless, I realised I had value. After years of thinking that nothing mattered because I didn’t, I found that life did matter and I did too.

What about you? Isn’t it time to be bold about yourself. I’m not talking about being boastful or arrogant. I’m talking about appreciating and nurturing yourself. About believing in your talents and abilities. About celebrating everything that makes you unique.

Children have an ability to take things at literally and internalise what is spoken over them. It is so important that when it comes to my own daughters that their personalities are cherished, their achievements are praised and that they know that they are loved unconditionally.

So it made my heart glad to hear my youngest daughter talking to her friend as they played the other day. Her friend spoke of how she wished she could be a princess because she could wear a special dress and this would make her special. My daughter told her friend that  she didn’t need to a special dress because feeling special came from the inside not from the outside. I don’t know if her friend understood what my daughter was saying but I know it made me smile. What we have on the inside of us is infinitely more important than the outside.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~Lao Tzu

Are you mourning the person you could have been if only……?  It may be too late to recapture the past. It may be too late to pursue a particular dream. But it is never too late to be the person you were meant to be.

il_570xN.436607721_sygnAccept you can’t change what has gone before. Let it go. Resolve to make new goals and new dreams. Accept you can’t change what others have said. Let it go. Resolve to speak new declarations and embrace everything that is good about you.

What ever is stopping you from loving yourself, caring for yourself, being yourself, let it go. Life is too short to hold onto those things or those people who are robbing you of your worth.

Believe me. Believe in yourself.                You’re worth it.

Top image Believe in Yourself  and bottom image Let it Go used with the kind permission of the fantastic Stephanie Ryan at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/stephanieryanart  All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Stephanie Ryan.

A mother’s love.

mother child painting latin americaEveryone has a mother but not everyone has a mother’s love. A mother’s love is unlike any other because no one else can take the place of the woman who spent 9 months sharing her body with you, nurturing and protecting you before going through the miracle of birth.

It is this unique bond that forms the basis of a mother’s love for her child. A love that is unconditional and perpetual, absolute and profound.

In a perfect world every human being would experience a love such as this. But this world is not perfect. And those who lack mother’s presence physically, emotionally are spiritually wounded as a result.

“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. -Erich Fromm”

The benefits of a strong attachment with a mother can not be underestimated. To grow up secure in the knowledge that you are loved because you are you, that you are cared for because you are you, that you are valued because you are you, sets a firm foundation of self-belief and self-worth.

Without that affinity, the effects can be devastating. It was being abandoned by my own mother as an infant that resulted in my feelings of insecurity and inferiority that I would carry through into adulthood. Like many children I internalised the rejection and believed she had left because I wasn’t good enough. Leaving me with an abusive father only served to reinforce my lack of self-esteem that manifested itself for years to come through depression and alcoholism.

“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.” ~ Bertolt Brecht

It isn’t only the physical presence of a mother that is important, her psychological availability is crucial. And not only through childhood. A mother’s support, encouragement and care is needed just as much when you are adult as it was when you were an infant. To have a mother who is alive but emotionally distant  can be hard to accept. To yearn for that connection only to be rebuked or worse still abused can cause intolerable damage.

Abuse by a mother, whatever form it takes is something I find difficult and disturbing to contemplate. I have no idea how a woman can harm the very one they should protect. But some do and the consequences are severe. Whilst the bruises and marks of a physical attack will fade in time, the emotional wound of that event can last forever. And words too can cut like a knife causing a mental laceration that may eventually heal but leave a permanent scar of rejection and hatred.

“Even though the mother somehow falls over, even though she has nothing to offer, the offspring will develop and grow independently and still thrive.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My biggest fear when I became pregnant was that fear that because I had been abandoned by my own mother, that I would also repeat the pattern and reject my own child. I need not have worried, because from the moment I had my pregnancy confirmed I was filled with such a need to safeguard and treasure my unborn baby, there was no doubt that I would love my child.

There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for my daughters. My love for them is unlike any other love. It is unconditional and perpetual, absolute and profound. As it should be.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” ~ Diane Mariechild

mother child painting eskimosIt proves that no amount of bad experiences from the past need define the future. Having a bad mother didn’t make me a bad mother. In fact it was the lack of love in my childhood that fueled my desire to find love and pass it on to the next generation.

What a blessing it is to be able to give my offspring the love that I never had. To be able to give what I never received is one of those miracles in life that I never take for granted.

Yet, whilst I rue the lack of love from my own mother, she did give me life.                        That is love enough.

Thank you to Judy Lai of http://www.motherchildpaintings.com/ for her permission to use Painting of Mother and Child in Latin America – Top Image and Painting of Mother and Child Eskimos -Bottom image. All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Judy Lai.

How to heal a broken heart.

il_570xN.433732644_hlyp (1)I wasn’t going to write about affairs of the heart in this post but the recurring theme in many of my messages this week concerns broken hearts. Anyone who has gone through or is going through the trauma of a broken heart knows that the pain can be unlike any other. It can feel like the agony is never going to end. So how do you heal a broken heart?

We will all experience the end of a special relationship at some point in our lives, whether it’s by death, divorce or other break-up. But you can also have your heart broken by someone who you are currently connected to or want to be with. Whatever the circumstances, the fact that the love you need is missing from your life can keep you trapped in anguish. No matter how you try to hide your hurt from the outside world, you carry your broken heart within you, where ever you go.

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Hippocrates

Whether it’s emotional or physical injury, time can be a great healer. However when it comes to a broken heart, the passing of days can dull the ache a little, but time itself cannot restore you to happiness.

In fact no-one and nothing can mend the wound for you, it is something you have to do for yourself. Good friends can listen and comfort, family can empathise and nurture you. But no-one can heal your heart. How could they? How can they ever reach the depths of your frustration, your fears, your loneliness, your despair?

“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” – Carl Townsend

It’s only when you believe you can heal and you want to move on that the true recovery can begin. Initially you may try to manage the damage with things that gratify you.  Food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work  all can help fill the void, numb the pain, and distract you. Yet temporary respite fades and the reality of your raw and vulnerable soul reappears.

When my mother abandoned me as a child it felt like she had taken a piece of my heart with her. Then my father ripped the rest to shreds through his abuse. By the time I reached adulthood I all had were fragments that I sought to protect in the hope that one day someone would love me enough to help me rebuild my brokenness. And along came my first love.

Who doesn’t remember their first love? The passion, intensity and promise of that relationship is what made it so special. But for me it was the fact that someone actually loved me that made me want to hold on to it forever. Of course, it didn’t and when the painful ending arrived it was excruciating.

The loss of my first love reinforced the rejection and worthlessness that I had experienced all my life. It reminded me of the words that had been spoken over me as a child that I was unwanted and unlovable. It made me believe that I would always be discarded and alone. So I put a barrier around the fractured remains of my heart and vowed never to let anyone hurt me ever again.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

When you reach those dark depths of despair that a broken heart brings, it can feel safer to barricade yourself against the world and hide your true feelings, rather than allow yourself to heal. But heal you must because the alternative is to spend the rest of your life trapped in a mental cocoon of distrust and anger, loneliness and grief.

Emotional restoration takes time and courage. And it demands that you use the very entity that wounded you to heal you – love. It starts with giving yourself permission to love yourself unconditionally and in doing so finding forgiveness for yourself and others.

In the beginning I found this almost impossible to even contemplate. The fear of being hurt again was almost overwhelming, but I took my fragile heart and trusted in a faith that healed through unconditional love. It was a process of tears and time, but eventually the wounds were less tender and the sorrow  less severe.

Once the scars formed I was able to move onto what was for me the hardest part – letting go. You have to be able to release yourself from  whoever caused you so much suffering. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting the love you had or dishonouring the memory of a special individual. It does mean accepting that the past is over and can’t be changed.

il_570xN.433008725_hwpuThrough faith I was able trust in the knowledge that season of my life had come to an end and a new beginning awaited. Through love I was able to celebrate my self-worth and reach out to others.

All this and more came from a courage to heal. The courage to heal a broken-heart.

Images thanks to the fabulous talent of Kathleen Tennant at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KathleenTennant

Treasures of your heart.

1254860_heart_flowersWhat are the treasures of your heart? Where can they be found?

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Wealth, possessions, success are all things that we can desire but they don’t guarantee peace of mind or happiness. Of course they help to make our daily existence enjoyable and can provide purpose and incentive, but it’s possible to be affluent and acclaimed yet still not be satisfied with life. I believe that’s because happiness has very little to do with what we have on the outside and everything to do with who we are on the inside.

My childhood experiences of abandonment and abuse had been the cause of long-term depression and alcoholism. I spent years believing that a successful career, being financially secure and having expensive possessions could fill the void in my life. But nothing was ever going to replace the love I should have had as a child.

When I hit rock-bottom and lost everything I felt like my life had ended and should be ended. My heart was like stone and there were no treasures to be found  in my existence.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu

As I have journeyed in recovery, I have learnt to replace the ‘hurt healers’ of alcohol and depression with the ‘hurt healers’ of life – simplicity, patience, compassion, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, hope. These riches I have found through a faith that teaches love. A love that provides an abundance of comfort, healing and power.

I used the experiences of my past as the foundation for my future. Through adversity and hard times I can now appreciate the prosperity and good times. Through abandonment and loss I can cherish and nurture my family and friends. And it is by coming through such depths of darkness yesterday that the light shines so brightly today.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy or is going through a time of adversity knows that when difficulties arise priorities change. The things you may have held in high esteem before, matter less. The day-to-day issues you have stressed over, become insignificant. Life takes on a new meaning.

Emotional healing demands that you turn away from what you don’t have to focus on what you do have. Losing a loved one means letting go of what you had in the physical, but holding tight to the memories that will last you a lifetime. Suffering with an illness means accepting the disease and looking after the rest of your health. Difficulties in a relationship means focusing on the good aspects whilst managing the bad.

Whatever you are dealing with, it can be tough. Yet you will be able to manage your situation so much easier if you have a strong heart. And your heart will be as strong as the treasures it holds within.

1256162_heartsIf your heart is weak, you will lack the strength you need to rebuild your mind, body and soul. If your heart is empty, you will lack the passion you need to pursue your dreams. If your heart is broken you will find it difficult to love and be loved. But a strong, complete and treasure filled heart will help you find peace, hope and happiness.

So how is your heart today?